Friday, 26 August 2011 00:00

Lame & Lamer: Media Excuses for Ignoring a Surging Ron Paul

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Ron Paul Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann, an Iowa native, won the Republicans' Ames, Iowa Straw Poll on August 13. That fact was reported by most of the national media. However, in an incredible display of conformity bias, virtually all of the major media blacked out the fact that Rep. Ron Paul of Texas came in a close second, in a virtual tie with Bachmann, with less than one percentage point difference between them. On many of the major media news shows and Sunday talk programs, the network "analysts" and guest "experts" mentioned every GOP presidential candidate (and some who are not candidates: Palin, Trump, Christie) — every candidate, that is, except Ron Paul, who had just accomplished a huge underdog victory.

The glaring hypocrisy of the "lamestream media" commentators in pretending to be objectively reporting on the event while blatantly censoring Ron Paul out of existence was too much for liberal comedian/commentator Jon Stewart of Comedy Central's The Daily Show. Stewart blasted (see here) the media, using clips from CNN, FOX, NBC, etc. to show their almost comical uniformity in declaring Bachmann, Mitt Romney, and Texas Governor Rick Perry to be the designated "top tier" GOP candidates, and to expose the media's outrageous and unfair efforts to consign Ron Paul to political oblivion. The Stewart media spanking went viral, with hundreds of versions of the video being posted on YouTube and other Internet sites (most of which have since been removed by Viacom, Comedy Central's parent company, for copyright infringement).

Columnists, independent bloggers, and radio talk-show hosts also pounded the media chorus for ganging up against Dr. Paul, instead of allowing the political process to play out fairly. (See here, here, here, and here.)

However, it was undoubtedly the enormous impact of Jon Stewart's comedy rant that forced many in the lamestream corporate media to examine, explain, and defend their indefensible conduct regarding Rep. Paul's presidential campaign. Many of the corporate media pieces answering the charges of bias in their coverage (or non-coverage) of Ron Paul specifically reference the Stewart comedy routine.

In a column entitled, "Are the media scared of Ron Paul?" Peter Grier of the Christian Science Monitor offers a number of unconvincing explanations aimed at covering for the deliberate bias of his and other media organizations.

"Are the media scared of Ron Paul? The Texas congressman and GOP presidential candidate believes they are," wrote Grier. He then noted: "In an interview with Fox News on Tuesday, Representative Paul ticked off the reasons that reporters should list him in the top tier of Republican wannabes. Paul noted that he did well in the Iowa straw poll, has a strong organization, and can raise money. But news outlets routinely treat him as a hopeless case, if they mention him at all. Paul says the reason for this is fear, pure and simple."

Grier's CSM piece continues:

"They don't want to discuss my views because I think they're frightened by us challenging the status quo and the establishment when it comes to foreign policy and monetary policy, the entitlement system, because my views are quite different than the other candidates'," he [Paul] said on Fox.
Hmm. Well, he did do well in Iowa, that's true. And Paul has gotten a blip of coverage for that, if he hasn't noticed. Thanks to comedian Jon Stewart scolding the "lamestreamers."

Grier acknowledges that Paul "had to have a pretty good organization to do well in Iowa," and observes that "he can raise money. The latest fundraising results on file with the Federal Election Commission show him in second place in the GOP cash race behind moneybags Mitt Romney."

So, after conceding that Ron Paul almost won the Iowa poll, has a strong campaign organization, and is a top fund raiser — all of which the media mavens usually cite as crucial criteria for considering a candidate to be "top tier" — Grier then gets down to trying to explain why the media consistently ignore Ron Paul:

But "fear" might not be the right word here. (OK — maybe we're a little leery of how Paul supporters flame our in-boxes if they deem us not sufficiently supportive.) We'd used the word "puzzled" instead, as in the media are puzzled by how Paul fits into the Republican primary picture.

See, reporters like to reduce candidates to easily labeled boxes. Mr. Romney is the front-runner, Rick Perry the Southern hope, Michele Bachmann the tea party queen, and so forth. Paul does not easily fit any of these boxes.

Grier's argument, essentially, is a self-indicting plea of stupidity: "Gee, ya know, nobody gave us reporters a catchy label for Ron Paul and we just can't figure out a neat, tidy box to put him in, so that's why we're ignoring him."

A recent study by the Pew Research Center confirms what many Ron Paul supporters have claimed all along, that the mainstream media (MSM) have indeed been singling out Paul for the ostracism treatment. Among other things, the study found, as reported by politico.com, that "Ron Paul has been featured in 27 news articles since January, fewer than Rick Perry's 33 articles, even though the Texas governor announced his candidacy less than three weeks ago."

In an article with the understated title, "Study: Ron Paul's news coverage lags," Politico.com provided this summary of the Pew findings:

The Pew analysis rounded up hundreds of stories across 52 outlets and found President Barack Obama had 221 stories written about him from the beginning of the year through Aug. 14. Obama was followed by presumptive GOP frontrunner Mitt Romney (120), Newt Gingrich (112) and Michele Bachmann (108). Under Pew's index, Paul had 27 stories written about him through Ames, less than Rick Perry's 33 articles, even though the Texas governor announced his candidacy less than a week ago....

Pew also measured the TV buzz of GOP candidates in the two days after the straw poll, finding again that Paul's buzz was not commensurate with his performance in Iowa. Looking at mentions in the Sunday news shows, morning and evening network news as well as cable news, Paul was mentioned in those broadcasts just 29 times. Compare that to the same analysis of the so-called top-tier GOP candidates: Rick Perry was mentioned 371 times, Bachmann 274 and Romney 183 times.

Newt Gingrich, who garnered only 2.3 percent of the Iowa Staw Poll vote, had received more than four times as much print coverage as Ron Paul, who got 27.6 percent.

Of course, tabulating the amount of coverage tells only part of the media bias story. Equally important is the negative spin put on many of the print and broadcast reports identifying Ron Paul as "fringe," "kooky," "dangerous," "isolationist," "non-viable," "non-serious," "anti-defense," or  a "cult favorite."

Yes, Ron Paul Is "Top Tier"

Since Stewart's thrashing, the corporate media seem to be trying to regain some semblance of credibility by covering Ron Paul's candidacy a bit more conscientiously.

An August 24 Gallup Poll of Republicans and Republican-leaning independents put Ron Paul in third place, behind Rick Perry and Mitt Romney. According to the Gallup survey, 29 percent of the GOP and GOP-leaning voters prefer Perry, 17 percent would vote for Romney, and 13 percent would choose Paul. Ten percent indicated they would vote for Bachmann.

Photo of Ron Paul at Iowa straw poll: AP Images

Related articles:

Media Mostly Silent on Ron Paul's Surging Candidacy

Has the Media Suppressed Ron Paul's Coverage?

New Study: The Media Stonewalls the "Ron Paul Revolution"

Is the new "Super Congress" Constitutional?

Rick Perry: Tax and Spend Cronyism as Big as Texas

Rick Perry: The New Bulldozer on the Block

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